Piano and Organ Tuner and Technician
Piano and Organ Tuner and Technician
Education and Training: High school plus training
Salary: Median—$13.47 per hour
Employment Outlook: Poor
Definition and Nature of the Work
Piano and organ tuners and technicians tune, repair, and rebuild pianos and organs. Most work for independent repair shops, and many have their own shops. Some tuners and technicians work for piano and organ dealers. Others work for manufacturers of pianos and organs.
There are four different kinds of workers in this field. Piano tuners adjust the tuning pins that control the tension of the piano strings so they produce the correct pitches. Tuners are trained to hear the correct pitches, but they also use a tuning fork, which is a two-pronged device that gives a fixed tone when it is struck. Although piano tuners may replace worn parts or strings, further repairs require the skills of a piano technician. Piano technicians understand the overall mechanical operation of the instrument, and they find and correct problems such as loose pins or worn felt on hammers. Piano technicians use common hand tools as well as special repinning and restringing tools.
There are two kinds of organ technicians. Pipe organ technicians tune, install, and repair pipe organs. Most pipe organs are large and complex. They are usually installed in churches or auditoriums. Installing a pipe organ can take several weeks or months, depending on the size of the organ. Pipe organ technicians install air chests, blowers, pipes, and other parts of the organs. They also tune and repair the organs regularly. As with piano tuners, technicians have trained ears, and they use tuning forks. They move or adjust metal slides or reeds until each pipe of the organ sounds the correct pitch. Because the organ console and its blowers are in different sections of a building, organ technicians work in teams of at least two workers.
Electronic organ technicians tune and repair electronic organs by using special electronic test equipment. Electronic organ technicians use soldering irons, wire cutters, and other tools to fix the electrical wiring in electronic organs. Many technicians work on only one brand of electronic organ.
Education and Training Requirements
Employers prefer to hire high school graduates as piano and organ tuners and technicians. Courses in music, metallurgy, physics, and woodworking are useful. Prospective tuners of electronic organs should take courses in electronics. These courses are given in some high schools and in technical schools and two-year colleges.
High school graduates interested in tuning pianos may go to work in a piano shop or with a qualified tuner–technician. Some colleges offer a program for piano technicians as well as courses in rebuilding pianos. Home-study courses should always be supplemented with on-the-job experience. A few schools teach piano tuning to visually handicapped persons whose acute hearing often helps make them outstanding tuners. The Piano Technicians Guild publishes a list of schools offering these courses.
Both piano technicians and organ builders may employ apprentices. Larger organ builders have their own programs for advancement. Study in a technical school can shorten a piano-tuning apprenticeship. Apprentices become registered piano tuners or technicians by passing written and practical tests given by the Piano Technicians Guild.
Getting the Job
The best way to get a job as a piano or organ tuner or technician is to apply directly to repair shops, piano and organ dealers, or companies that make pianos and organs. Interested individuals can also check with their school placement service. Employment agencies, newspaper classifieds, and Internet job banks can give information about jobs. Candidates can also open their own repair business, but they should get some job experience first.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Piano and organ tuners and technicians can advance to positions as supervisors in large stores or repair shops. Those who are very skilled can get jobs caring for fine pianos and organs in concert halls. Some tuners and technicians advance by going into business for themselves. Tools for tuning and repairing pianos and pipe organs are not costly, so large sums of money are not needed to open a business. On the other hand, tools and testing equipment needed to work on electronic organs are very expensive. Loans are available for those who qualify.
Job openings for piano and organ tuners and technicians are expected to increase more slowly than the average for all occupations through the year 2014. There are a very small number of openings in the field. Those with training will have the best opportunities. Most jobs will become available as workers retire.
Piano and organ tuners and technicians spend many of their working hours in people's homes and in buildings such as churches and schools, so working conditions vary. They often use cars or trucks for service calls. Working hours may depend on the season. During fall and winter, people spend more time indoors playing the piano or organ. Many tuners and technicians work more than forty hours per week during these times of the year. They may work evenings or weekends. Some tuners and technicians work part time. They may also be music teachers, musicians, or television and radio repairers. Piano tuning and repairing is well suited to people who like to work independently.
Where to Go for More Information
Earnings and Benefits
Piano and organ tuners earn a median hourly rate of $13.47, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Earnings are usually higher in urban areas. Benefits for employed tuners and technicians vary according to the size of the business. Benefits may include paid holidays and vacations, health insurance, and pension plans. Those who have their own businesses must provide their own benefits.